Wednesday, December 22, 2010

List of lists

The time for best book lists is here.
Here are just a few:
Publishers' Weekly (US) includes Patti Smith (which I still can't find anywhere) and [sigh] Freedom. This is the test for each list - does it include Freedom?

Anis Shivani at the Huffington Post calls it one of the year's several notably "ponderous, bloated, eminently editable books". He prefers Orhan Pamuk.

Closer to home, the Fairfax papers asked a whole lot of clever people what they liked. Christos has discovered Margaret Yourcenar. Colm Toibin loved David Malouf's Ransom. And Geraldine Brooks adored- surprise, surprise - Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel.

The Guardian did the same thing, with rather more mixed results: Philip Hensher loved Freedom. Can  that be right?

Finally, The Daily Beast added up the votes and came up with a list of lists - with Room at the very top, which is splendid. This list saves you having to read all the others. Nice.

Wolf Hall. No contest.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Democracy in action

Fiction is democratic, it reasserts the authority of the single mind to make and remake the world.

~ E L Doctorow

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Lately I've been...

  • Swordspoint and The Privilege of the Sword, by Ellen Kushner. Mannerpunk novels with lots of swordfights. Swordspoint, in particular, is delicious. And I get to claim I'm reading them for research, too.
  • Opera, or The Undoing of Women, by Catherine Clément - gorgeous critical writing.
  • The Slap. Finally. And I don't know why it's so compelling either, but it just is.
  • Occasional Writings, by Margaret Atwood. I meant to save it for my holiday but couldn't.
So instead I'm taking to the beach:
  • Timepieces - Drusilla Modjeska on writing
  • The Lacuna - Barbara Kingsolver, about which I've heard mixed reports, but I know it isn't The Poisonwood Bible, so I'm prepared for anything
  • The Red Shoe - Ursula Dubosarsky
  • Notes from the Teenage Underground - Simmone Howell 
  • And Bleak House. Just because.

  • Teddy Tahu Rhodes in The Marriage of Figaro
  • Firefly on DVD
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 1) about which I feel better as the distance between us grows. 
The sixth HP film was always going to be slightly problematic, since it is largely about the trio and their quest/conflicts, without the usual ensemble, and all the big battles will be in the final instalment. But it really does work, not least because the three main actors are now so much better than they were when they were younger.
I've heard numerous stories of small children sobbing in the cinema. It's not a little kids' film by any stretch of the imagination - please, if your kid is not old enough to read the book without help, don't take them to the movie.

Of course I'm writing my PhD novel. But also making scribbles for a sort of fantasy something.
And doing last minute proofing things to Act of Faith, which is now coming out in July.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Great things: at stake right now

All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom, justice, honour, duty, mercy, hope.

~ Winston Churchill


Made a rough timeline of La Maupin's life - on timetoast - these are just a few dates of performances etc where I know the specific date:

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Hearing voices

Here's a (short) paper on writing La Maupin, presented today, including a couple of brief extracts from the draft - it's here on my website.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Proof of life

Proofreading's all done on Act of Faith.

Those sharp eyes at HarperCollins spotted a few howlers, thank God. That's what happens when you chop and change, which you inevitably do. You lose track of whether you are just before dawn or just after dawn and make your characters do a bit of time travel - not a good thing when it's not science fiction or fantasy. Or you move a sentence and then find it swinging in the breeze, alone and without meaning. Anyway, I hope we caught them all.

That's what editing's for.

I love being edited. As someone who is also in the business of publishing other people's content (albeit online), and often trains people to write for the web, I'm always astonished when people say "Don't change a word". Meaning, "I don't want my pearl-like prose to be touched by some talentless hack". Don't you mess with my text. You'll ruin it.


This book has been well edited and I'm very pleased with both the process and the result. Other people see things you simply cannot see - you stop seeing - especially words or phrases you use too often. Other people ask sensible questions like "Did you mean for that to happen?". It all goes to make the reading experience as smooth as possible. Don't you hate it when you're caught up in an adventure or an argument and your mind trips over a typo or a logical gap?

Of course, we all make mistakes and sometimes editors do too. Have you ever seen those websites where people dissect in minute detail any bloopers in the Harry Potter books? Well, life's too short to spend time documenting them, but they are all good fun - just the other day I was reading Deathly Hallows and was stopped yet again by the fact that Dean has no father on one page and parents a few chapters later. It's easy enough to do, especially with that many characters and details.No doubt there will be something, even with all this wonderful editing, in Act of Faith. I will find it the day after it comes back from the printers.

But never you mind. Which is one of those phrases I used far too often in it.

Thursday, December 02, 2010